TRUST DA BIBLE, NOT DA VINCI'S CODE – The book was a big best-seller. The movie has huge hype. Find out why The Da Vinci Code’s claims about the Bible are purely fictional, and be ready to speak up for the truth.
by Greg Hartman
Seek the truth, the movie trailer said. But if you’d rather avoid silly conspiracy theories, sexual immorality or bad theology, you’ll want to avoid The Da Vinci Code.The uproar surrounding Dan Brown’s best-selling novel has been going on since it was released in 2003; the movie is igniting it all over again.As an action-adventure story, The Da Vinci Code delivers fast-moving suspense. But Brown claims his book is more than a story: He says the history presented in his book is all true.
This isn’t a book or movie review, so I don’t mind spoiling the plot.According to Brown, Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had children; the early church enjoyed sexual ceremonies in celebration of Mary’s femininity and divinity. Jesus wanted Mary to lead the church after His death (He was “the original feminist,” as Brown puts it), but the apostle Peter staged a coup and took over instead.After the Roman Empire became Christian under Constantine, church and government ruthlessly suppressed these “truths,” first by persecuting believers who didn’t play along and later by controlling which books made it into the New Testament.Since then, Jesus and Mary’s descendants have secretly kept His lineage and the truth alive. One of those descendants was Leonardo da Vinci, who hid loads of clues about the truth in his art. The good guys — one of whom turns out to be Jesus’ descendant as well — are running for their lives from Catholic officials who would murder them to keep them quiet.
Strange but Untrue
Jesus was married and had kids? Peter stole the church from Mary Magdalene? A bizarre story. Brown has maintained all along that The Da Vinci Code is nothing more than an entertaining way to teach what he believes is the truth about Jesus and the early church.Lies about Jesus and the Bible are nothing new. (See Matthew 28:12-15.) Instead of being an expert on lies, though, I’d rather be an expert on the truth — specifically, on why you can trust the Bible.Brown’s story hinges, after all, on whether the New Testament is historically accurate. If it is, then The Da Vinci Code isn’t. Simple as that. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
The Right Stuff
Brown says the New Testament’s books were chosen by elite power brokers to keep themselves in control. That’s a common accusation, but it’s simply not true.The Third Council of Carthage ratified the New Testament in A.D. 397. They didn’t force everyone else to accept the books they liked, though; they simply recorded what believers already accepted as the inspired Word of God.Brown relies heavily on a collection of writings called the Gnostic Gospels (see “Holes”) for his mythology about Jesus and Mary, saying the early church kept them out of the New Testament to suppress the truth.The Gnostic Gospels, however, were written nearly 200 years after the real Gospels — obviously not by eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry. The reason they aren’t in the Bible is that they were rejected by nearly everyone from the start.
The Right Stuff, Part 2
Obviously no one had word processors or photocopiers when the New Testament was written. How do we know we’ve got what the New Testament writers actually wrote? How do we know it’s historically accurate?Experts look at two issues when they’re dealing with ancient writings:
1. How many manuscripts are there? The more you have, the easier it is to weed out copying errors and revisions and identify what the author really wrote.
2. How old are the manuscripts? If the gap between your manuscripts and the original is just a few years, you’re better off than if the original was written 1,000 years before your oldest manuscript.Here’s some manuscript evidence supporting some of the world’s best-documented ancient books:Caesar’s Gallic Wars is a critically important source for much of what we know about ancient Rome and Caesar himself. I bet you’ve never heard an argument about whether Gallic Wars is accurate, even though the earliest manuscript is separated from the original by 1,000 years and there are only 10 manuscripts. Historians are confident they have the right stuff.The world’s second-best documented ancient book is Homer’s The Iliad. It was written about 900 B.C.; the oldest manuscript is dated about 500 B.C., separating it from the original by only 400 years, and we have 643 manuscripts.That’s a lot. If historians are confident they have the real text of Gallic Wars, they’d stake their lives on The Iliad.The best-documented ancient book of them all, though, is the New Testament. We have more than 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament, and the oldest is conservatively dated at A.D. 125 — only 35 years after the original.That, folks, is what you call being in a class by yourself.
Here Today, Here Tomorrow
Bottom line: You can trust your Bible.If Dan Brown isn’t satisfied that the New Testament is historically accurate, then he needs to explain why he thinks anything is historically accurate — much less a handful of myths about Jesus that were rejected the day they were written.That, frankly, is his problem. And he’s got a lot of company. People have attacked the Bible’s authority and accuracy since Day 1; their conspiracy theories and fake gospels are long forgotten, but the Bible is still here. After The Da Vinci Code has been forgotten, the Bible will still be here.
Greg Hartman is the managing technical editor for Focus on the Family’s Internet department. He is convinced that the moon landings were not faked, that Leonardo da Vinci was not a descendant of Jesus and that the Earth is not flat.
This article appeared in the May 2006 issue of Breakaway magazine. Copyright © 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.